Last month, 2 companies struck a buzzing deal that will bring to market 10 billion pieces of apparel, said to be born digital and « switched on » (understand, have unique internet IDs like people and data profiles in the cloud). Described by one of the signers as « probably the biggest deal the IoT has had » (so far), this major move is a clear signal that this industry is on the verge of going mainstream.
1. You’re about to communicate with pieces of clothes
Diving headfirst in the 21st century of fashion, and thus bringing the clothes industry to an age of technology, the collaboration between Avery Dennison (a packaging and labelling giant that puts label on products for brands like Nike, Adidas, Hugo Boss…) and Evrythng (described here and there as the Facebook for things firm backed by Cisco and Samsung) aims at creating unique web identities for various products (apparel, shoes and accessories) over the course of the next three years. By assigning these IDs, at the point of manufacturing, this will create new personalized interaction opportunities between consumers and those products that go beyond the point of sale.
2. Opening a new world of opportunities for brands, retailers and consumers
In most case, things will start simple with printed QR codes that consumers will scan with their smartphone to access a service or identify a piece of apparel. Using different kind of technology, depending on the kind of cloth (connected thanks to wireless chips using NFC or RFID technology), the products will then generate extra data that may be used in multiple ways : have implications for stock control, lost prevention, detect fraudulently returned products, check the authenticity and manufacturing history, enabling consumers to participate in new after-sale loyalty schemes or rewarding programs, see exclusive content, re-order products…
Soon, companies will be provided with an unprecedented way to create new consumer experiences, protect their brands and provide supply chain with real time analytics. A near future possibility, since Evrythng considers establishing ongoing relationships directly with brands themselves. Powering clothes, and providing brand with a new source to extract the new black gold that we call data, this new opportunity immediately raises the usual questions about privacy.
3. The billion dollar question : how far is too far with data?
But why would anyone want their clothing to be connected? Thinking about it is kind of creeping me out and no matter how you call it, tracking, following or monitoring, this can’t be seen as nothing but a new way to track a person’s every move. With this kind of new personal link, when will brands know or decide how not to cross the red line and not be accused of being intrusive?
Nothing guarantees us that we won’t just end up with clothes that helps track the wearer down, which makes it pretty obvious that brands will need to nurture trust with their consumers, foster transparency and reward the ones giving away data. While this innovation doesn’t radically enhance the product itself, it can have the benefit of pushing brands to reinvent content creation and rethink the whole experience designed for a connected consumer. For the balances of powers to shift, everything depends on consumers themselves, however, it goes beyond their sole purchasing power: if people don’t realize right now how valuable data is and leverage it to fix the right limits and in the end, be fairly rewarded, they’ll be the great losers of this tough negotiation.
But don’t get too excited yet, this kind of breakthrough will take some time to grow on a massive scale…
Post written by Allan Joseph, Menswear Editor
After graduating from Toulouse Business School in 2012 and having multiple experiences as a Freelancer during 3 years, Allan works currently as a Strategist for Be Angels Agency. Specialized in Luxury marketing & advertising, he collaborated to the notorious book « La Génération Y et le Luxe » and joined Clausette Magazine in December 2015.